INDIANAPOLIS -- Wes Welker took his place on the Super Bowl postgame podium and tried to maintain his composure.
But, when the first question came, about that catch that went off his hands, about the catch that might have extended a New England Patriots drive and sealed the victory, the veteran receiver couldn't help it.
His voice cracked, his eyes momentarily welled up, and he assumed the blame for his team's stunning 21-17 Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants.
"That's a play I make a thousand times," he said. "I just didn't make it."
When asked if he was expecting the ball to be thrown over his other shoulder, Welker answered, "The ball was right there. I've got to make that play. It's a play I've made a thousand times, and at the biggest moment of my life I don't come up with it."
Welker said both he and quarterback Tom Brady recognized the Giants had miscommunicated with each other on the play, which came with four minutes left in the game and the Patriots ahead 17-15.
It was second-and-11 from the Giants 44-yard line, and Welker realized one defender was in Cover 2 and the other wasn't. He split the two of them and Brady fired the pass. If Welker would have caught the ball, it would have advanced the Patriots inside the red zone and put them in position to put the game away.
"It's a play I never drop. Most critical situation, and I let the team down," Welker said, fighting back his emotions.
The Patriots couldn't convert on the ensuing third down, punted, and that set up the Giants' final touchdown march.
Welker lauded the Patriots defense for keeping the mistake-prone offense in the game. "They were great out there," he said, "but in the end, I guess, it wasn't enough."
When Brady was asked about the pass to Walker he pointed out there wasn't one single moment that cost New England the game.
"Wes is a phenomenal player and a teammate," said Brady. "I love that guy."
"Wes is a competitor," added offensive lineman Brian Waters. "He's a pro. One play doesn't tell the story in this game. There were a lot of things out there that didn't go the way we wanted."
Welker will be a free agent on March 13, a topic that wasn't on his mind in the minutes following the most disappointing loss of his career.
"You get to this point, and you have a chance to wrap (the game up) and you miss out on it," he said. "I'll have to figure out a way to shake this one off."
The receiver stepped down and walked away, with his head down, and his Super Bowl dreams shattered.
"He's the kind of guy you wanted to see win one," said fellow receiver Deion Branch. "That one play wasn't the game. In time, he'll see that."
Jackie MacMullan is a reporter and columnist for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss was used in this report.